Sometimes, the “system” does work.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. moved this week to drop all charges pending against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (“DSK” for short) arising out of his arrest May 14th on charges of allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid at the Sofitel Hotel. The trial judge granted the prosecutor’s request, but the formal dismissal was stayed temporarily because the maid’s attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, angered by the District Attorney’s decision, had simultaneously filed a motion to have a special prosecutor appointed in Vance’s stead. That specious motion was then quickly denied.
In this case, the prosecutor is right and the defense attorney is wrong.
A prosecutor has a clear duty not to prosecute a case simply because an alleged victim and his or her attorney want to see a case prosecuted. A local district attorney – just as a United States Attorney – has a legal and ethical duty to prosecute cases based on his or her professional opinion that each and every element of the offense(s) charged can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor does not believe the evidence sustains that burden, then no matter how much he may want to prosecute the defendant, or no matter how much pressure is brought to bear on his office to do so – ethically he cannot proceed to prosecute.
Thus it is with DSK. The salacious charges against the former IMF chief appeared strong initially, when the only evidence was the maid’s initial and unverified story. Many observers, including conservative bloggers and commentators, were quick to conclude DSK must have violently attacked Nafissatou Diallo, because she said so and because she appeared a sympathetic victim and he a rich and powerful Frenchman.
Those initial appearances, however, quickly faded in the light of significant inconsistencies in the maid’s recounting of events, and once her full background – replete with even more inconsistencies – was revealed to Vance.
Diallo’s lawyer then made a shameful effort to inject race and politics into the equation, in a desperate ploy to force Vance to proceed with the prosecution notwithstanding the weakened evidence.
For the sake of his reputation and that of prosecutors everywhere, Vance resisted such craven attempts to override his professional duty.
In this instance, the judicial system and those who participate in it – at least Cy Vance, DSK’s lawyers, and the presiding judge – worked. However, Diallo and her lawyers appear committed to using every trick they can conjure up (including the race card), to milk the situation for everything they can squeeze out of it. It is a virtual certainty also, that she and her attorneys will find at least some gold in the pot at the end of her tarnished rainbow.
By Bob Barr – the Barr Code